RSS Feed

Sub by Email

Twitter Me


Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

INTERVIEW | Myke Cole author of Fortress Frontier

Myke Cole is the author of the Military Fantasy series Shadow Ops, which started last year with Control Point followed by the just released Fortress Frontier. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill. I finished Fortress Frontier right after this interview and found it to be an even better read the the first in the series. Each book has brought something new to the table while giving a good view of life in the military, granted military with magic, but that just amps it up even more.

MH: Shadow Ops: Control Point introduced us to a world where magic has come alive again and people with abilities are conscripted into the military. Control Point is through the eyes of military lifer Oscar Britton, but Fortress Frontier moves the POV to someone else. Why the change?

MYKE COLE:  All of my favorite fantasy writers, from Peter V. Brett to George R. R. Martin, deal with ensemble casts. I know plenty of writers have been incredibly successful following a single protagonist (Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Devon Monk, etc . . .), but that has never been the story arc that appeals most to me. It's the interplay between characters that we know really well that draws me in. I love the sense of in-depth world building that we get when an author fully fleshes out even the most ancillary characters. The serving boy has a story, so does the guy who pumps your gas. Steve Martin does an amazing job of this in his novella, Shopgirl. Joe Abercrombie is another writer who does this really well. The three books following his outstanding First Law trilogy are all in-depth examinations of 2nd string characters from First Law.

I have worked really hard to give the reader a very different experience with each Shadow Ops book. I understand that this risks those fans who like to follow a single protagonist, but it's just not how I write. I'm proud of the fact that Fortress Frontier and Control Point do very different things. You'll be following an entirely different protagonist for Breach Zone as well.

MH: One of the biggest confrontations Oscar faces in Control Point is revealing his powers to his parents. But one of this things that keeps coming back to mind is Oscar's dad goes through a portal where everyone supposedly dies, but we learn that is not necessarily true. So is there a chance his dad is not dead?

COLE: I'm not going to give spoilers. I will only repeat what you saw in the text: A gate opened, Stanley Britton went through. When the gate closed, he was still alive. Schroedinger's Cat, brother.

MH: Holding out on me, I see. This brings up an old discussion. I understand why authors don't like to give spoilers of their stories, but as a reader do you think there are such a thing as spoilers? This is something I go back and forth on a lot personally, while when I write my reviews I try not to include big reveals, but rarely would learning something "ruin" the story for me.

MYKE COLE: I'm with you. Learning what's going to happen in a story seldom cheapens the experience for me. That said, I recognize that there are people for whom so called "spoilers" really do ruin the experience. I always keep that in mind when talking about stories. It's like a wedding that way: you think it's about you, but it isn't.

MH: Your military experiences permeates Control Point. Did you always plan to go into the service? And were any of the characters based off officers you worked with?

MYKE COLE: If you'd come to me in college and told me I'd be a mercenary and eventually a uniformed officer, I would have laughed until milk came out of my nose. I was raised as a scrawny, nerdy aesthete, and only developed physically because working out was less shameful than sitting alone in the cafeteria during lunch. 9/11 spurred a reinvention for many Americans, myself among them. It created a perfect storm of opportunity: A passionate desire to DO SOMETHING, coupled by a glut of opportunities to do them. As the smoke from those planes cleared, the public was suddenly willing to let contractors do a lot of things they would never permit if they weren't frightened half to death. Once I was working for a private company in a war zone, I felt like my service was cheapened because it ultimately served a for-profit entity. That planted the seed that grew into my deciding to join up.

MH: I had a friend join up as well. I think that's something that ran though a lot of people's minds during that time.

You've an acknowledged Dungeons and Dragons player and last year helped DM and organize the Author D & D event at ConFusion. After watching that I couldn't help but wonder if you ever had a game going during your tours of Iraq.

MYKE COLE: I worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, so that was definitely not happening for me. However, when I was at the US embassy, I did note with pride that there was an advertisement for a Warhammer 40K game right along side the yoga class flyer on the community bulletin board. Space Marines in Baghdad. Real life is *way* stranger than fiction.

MH: Grueling hours, man. But I'm glad gaming is still out there. Back to Fortress Frontier. What are the biggest differences between Oscar Britton and Alan Bookbinder? Both are military men, but one from the grunt side and the other bureaucratic.

MYKE COLE: Oscar Britton is a *lot* more conflicted than Alan Bookbinder. This is because Oscar never had a sense of being moored somewhere. He didn't get along with his family, never established a lasting romantic relationship, and . . . well, he's a black guy in rural Vermont. He always had a sense of being out-of-place. The army filled that role for him, it became the home he never felt he had. So, when he's suddenly faced with the choice between the army and his own identity, he is really, really, REALLY torn over it.

Alan is the opposite. His life was smooth sailing from jump. Stable, supportive childhood, wife and kids, great career. He is as grounded as they come.

And then there's one more critical factor: Oscar Britton is a Probe. Alan Bookbinder self reports and is embraced by the system. Bookbinder faces some hard choices, but they're not morally conflicted choices. His path is clear. It's just a matter of finding the will to get it done.

MH: Fortress Frontier is the second volume of Shadow Ops with Breach Zone being the third. How will that differ from the first two? 

MYKE COLE: I'm very proud of having made each of the SHADOW OPS books very different from each other. Each book does something totally different (which also plays into my decision to vary protagonists for each book).

BREACH ZONE does two things that the first two books don't do. It is a tragic love story and an in-depth look at a single battle (a la Joe Abercrombie's THE HEROES). It also shifts focus to the political landscape in America following the upheaval resulting from . . . certain actions by the protagonists in books I and II. It has been the most difficult of the 3 books for me to write, and that's likely because it's the most ambitious. Here's hoping I pulled it off.

MH: You've also mentioned that you're writing a media tie-in novella. Is there anything you can say about that publicly?

MYKE COLE: Only that it won't be media tie-in. I have worked very hard with a few companies to find ideas that work with their franchises, but unfortunately, my writing just doesn't seem to be wired to fit those molds. In the one case where we were able to agree on an idea, the contract specifications were, frankly, unacceptable. I am certainly open to media tie-in work, but I'm not going to write something my heart isn't in just to make money.

MH: What is one your favorite D & D character names you've created?

MYKE COLE: When Pete (Peter V. Brett) and I played D&D in college, he got the Complete Book of Humanoids (2nd ed) and I rolled up a Wemic fighter. I a lot of . . . leonine stuff, I guess. Kicking down doors, killing people without talking to them and generally mucking up the campaign. Pete shook things up by killing me, then binding my soul into a statue. The resultant character had 18 in every stat, but was completely immune to all magic, including positive spells. Made for a fascinating game.

Oh, wait. You wanted to know his name. I don't remember.

MH: Do you have any celebration rituals when a new book is out?

MYKE COLE: I grab my agent and we hit every bookstore in the area, signing as many copies as we can find. I also try to chat up all the booksellers, even buying them a copy if they're willing to give it a read. A lot of the people working in bookstores are serious genre fans, and getting them interested in your work (or thinking you're a nice guy) is a great way to accelerate a launch. Sadly, this ritual takes less time every year, as more and more bookstores are closing.

MH: What is the greatest advice you've even been given as a writer?

MYKE COLE: It's the same advice I've been given as a military officer, government drone and human being: quit your bitching and get to work.

MH: Now on to the important issues. What is your favorite hat?

MYKE COLE: Of course it's my Mich 2002 combat helmet. Here's a shot of me posing with it during my 2nd tour.

MH: Awesome. What books are you reading at the moment?

MYKE COLE: Joe Abercrombie's Red Country and 2 other books for prospective blurbs. This is probably the most frustrating thing about being a pro writer. You barely have time to read as it is, and when you do, you can't simply get lost in a book and enjoy it. You're either deconstructing the reading experience as you try to improve your own craft, or you're reading a manuscript that your publisher sent you and feeling like a jerk because you're either too busy to finish it by the blurb deadline or don't like it enough to attach your name to it (I only blurb books I *really* love. So far, that's been just two: Daniel Polansky's Tomorrow, The Killing and Wes Chu's Lives of Tao). Going pro really does suck a lot of the joy out of leisure reading, which is ironic, because that's what made you want to go pro in the first place.

MH: Is there anything you'd like to say to close us out?

MYKE COLE: My blog, FB and Twitter are great places to see what I'm up to. I'd also like to call on your readers to consider a commitment in the military reserve. Seems like the nation has been going through some tough times lately, and nothing has done more for my mental health than feeling like I was able to ante up and HELP. I've deployed for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Hurricane Irene and now Hurricane Sandy, and I sleep so much better at night knowing that I pitched in and did something. If you can, I think you should. Stand with me.

You Might Also Like:
REVIEW | Control Point by Myke Cole
REVIEW | Low Town by Daniel Polansky
REVIEW | The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
REVIEW | Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
REVIEW | Dragonfly Falling & Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky
REVIEW | Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

New Procurements

My shelves seem to be overflowing more than ever before. This is despite cutting back drastically on the number of review copies I actually request for the last year. This is even the case after donating more than 4 large bags of books (at least 70 books) to a nearby library that was hard hit by Sandy and lost much of their collection. Hopefully their regular patrons are big Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans because, man, I just filled that place up with lots of new books and some older books I decided I could live without. So what do I do after all that? Well, I, of course add to the collection. The first pic is of my recent buys and the second 2 are review copies that have come my way.

For Christmas I received only 1 book, which was self-published phenomena Wool by Hugh Howey. I did however also get quite a few gift cards, which fuel the purchase of most of this pile. I read the first of Seanan McGuire's October Daye last year and want to continue on this year hence the next 2 books in the series A Local Habitation and An Artificial Night. I also started David Brin's much loved Sundiver series last year and grabbed the third book so I'll have nothing to hold me back from continuing on in the series along with his Earth, which is a standalone. Did you hear I loved Robert Jackson Bennett's The Troupe? If not I LOVED IT. Buy it. Now. That's not a request. This also meant I had to get his previous book The Company Man so my shelves looked complete.

Yes, I already own The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. But no I didn't own a first edition, first printing of the hardcover. I nabbed it for $8, which is a steal from prices I've seen online. A Once Crowded Sky is Tom King's debut novel, which is a prose superhero story that has gotten a decent rep so far. I also filled out my HC collection of Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain series with Sly Mongoose and Ragamuffin. The last in the pile is Unidentified Funny Objects, which is a Sci-Fi/Humor anthology I Kickstarted last year. On to review copies.

I lucked into an ARC of probably one of my most anticipated titles for the year with NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. Especially since Hill's last was an incredible readBlood Oranges is Caitlin Matthews aka Kathleen Tierney's start to a new Urban Fantasy series. It seemed like Caitlin considers this her less serious work hence the nom de plume. The Explorer by James Smythe has already been devoured and very much enjoyed. I hope to do a review soon. Karen Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds is another I've been looking forward to this year. Blind God's Bluff is Richard Lee Byers debut, which intrigues me, but I generally don't care for books with a gambling theme for some reason. Maybe because I'm not much of a gambler. The Kassa Gambit is M.C. Planck's debut Sci-Fi, which I've heard mixed things about. Impulse by Steve Gould is his latest Jumper novel. I loved the original and liked the sequel so I may take it for a spin though I was hoping for another 7th Sigma related story from him. Five Autobiographies and a Fiction is Lucius Shepard's latest collection. Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe is a new collection coming from John Varley. Doktor Glass is Thomas Brennan's debut which looks to be a Steampunk/Horror of some sort. Looks interesting.  Stephen Baxter's The Wheel of Ice is the latest Doctor Who novel. Though I'm a latecomer to Who I have fallen for it, even the old stuff.

The fat daddy at the top is another of my most anticipated: The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. Though I haven't done proper reviews of the first two in the series it has quickly become one of my favorites from the last 5 years. The man knows how to do a dark Epic. I've already read Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole, which is a marked improvement over Control Point. More on that later. The Six-Gun Tarot is R.S. Belcher's Weird West debut and I love the Raymond Swanland cover art. Wolfhound Century is Peter Higgin's debut, which I just heard called Ian Fleming meets China Mieville. That's sounds mighty good to me. The Many-Coloured Land is the first in a reissued series by Julian May that should be hitting the shelves in the UK soon. It sounds like the TV show Terrra Nova only much more interesting. No word on US reissues, but the Kindle editions appear to be up.  Exile is Betsy Dornbusch's debut, which I don't know much about.  Yet Night Shade usually comes out with Fantasy books I like and it seems to be a revenge story, which I like. The Departure is the start to a new Sci-Fi series from Neal Asher that might work if a hard Sci-Fi mood hits me.

You Might Also Like:
INTERVIEW | Neal Asher author of The Skinner
REVIEW | Horns by Joe Hill
INTERVIEW | Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma
Some Love for the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde
REVIEW | Control Point by Myke Cole

GUEST REVIEW | A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Two diplomas, three jobs, one marriage, one kid, three dogs, twenty years. Those are a few of the things that have happened to me since I read Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World for the first time. I've since read it a dozen times. I love it almost as much today as I did then. Rand's long walk from his home to Emond's Field, his father laid out on the horse cart clinging to life, still instills the same sense of dread and determination it always has.
I'll be the first to admit that as the Wheel of Time spun out new books over the years they got worse, and worse, and worse, until a time came that I hardly anticipated their release.  I challenge anyone to casually mention 'the Bowl of Winds' to any Wheel of Time fan. The reactions are almost assured to involve crude language. That isn't to say they were bad books, on par with Piers Anthony or Terry Goodkind, but they weren't the same kind of magic captured in first four, and to a lesser degree the first seven.
Much of that changed when Jordan passed and Brandon Sanderson took over the franchise. I write that not to condemn Jordan's writing, but to highlight that he had perhaps reached a point in the series where a new set of eyes was needed to finish it. First with Towers of Midnight, then with The Gathering Storm, Sanderson was able to put aside some of Jordan's pet projects and, for the first times in years, progress the story to the places it needed to go to complete the series. At the time, it was an incredible thing to witness; the seeds of Jordan's labors were finally bearing fruit.
While that continues in A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time novel, some warts are also exposed as Sanderson is forced to cut the cord on extraneous story lines in order to accomplish the necessary greater good of completing Jordan's opus. The result is a novel that finishes the mission, so to speak, but leaves me wondering about Jordan's actual vision.
Before I go any further let me assure everyone that A Memory of Light wraps up the stories of Rand, Mat, and Perrin entirely. It leaves nothing unresolved, or dangling. In almost every way, this fourteenth volume is the novel Wheel of Time fans have waited the better part of twenty years to read. The Last Battle comes. Rand confronts the Dark One. Taim is revealed. Loial turns into Chewbacca. And the great swordsman question is put to rest. I admit to a certain amount of sheer joy at watching these things unfold. I also admit to a certain disappointment that they all unfold in such expected ways, with only a few minor twists.
The largest among those twists, related to an often unseen but prominent villain, fails because it just wasn't properly foreshadowed and/or developed with a point of view character. I feel confident that had Jordan lived to finish his series, there would have been one. I say that on faith, but faith is an important part of a series of this length. I had faith that Moraine's eight book absence amid endless speculation would pay off in the end, and that Cadsuane for all the posturing would serve some significance. That same faith had me believing that the transposition of Padan Fain and Slayer/Luc within the narrative would tie together. Perhaps that faith was misplaced. While there is resolution to all those arcs, they are inadequate given the amount of time devoted to them.
I don't want to be misunderstood. There's almost nothing Sanderson could have done to fix these problems short of writing two more books, or rewriting the ones that came before his involvement. The record was too long and the future not tolerant enough for more exposition. Many of my frustrations are merely the cause and effect of a series that spans fourteen books, two authors, and twenty three years. I strongly believe that Brandon Sanderson wrote the best books that anyone could have written who wasn't Robert Jordan himself. He treated the material respectfully and brought the series to a satisfying conclusion. In so doing, he gave much needed closure to a rabid fan base that grew up with Rand, Perrin, and Mat. I'm one of them.
Because of that, what follows here was difficult to write, but I also cannot in good conscience not write it.
I'm often asked, "Is the Wheel of Time worth it?" In other words, should I invest the better part of a year's reading in the series? My answer for the last decade has been, "I don't know, I'll let you know when the series is finished." With the final novel now in my rear view mirror, I feel capable of answering it.
The answer has to be no. But, like so many things it isn't that simple. To anyone who's read deep into the series, and put it aside until it was finished, please make good on that promise. Sanderson's first two books in the series are iconic, full of huge moments and promised pay-offs. The third lacks those eye brow raising theatrics, but it provides the closure the Wheel's fans needed. But, for the reader just beginning, I believe there are better places to look. The miasma of the eighth through eleventh books is a slog I cannot wish on anyone, full of bloat and wasted words. The payoff, however good, can never overcome the frank and utter disregard for editorial oversight that those novels exemplified.
And still. . .
My inner fan says thank you Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. My memories of the Wheel of Time will be with me always. The series wasn't the beginning of my reading life, but it was a beginning. For whatever that's worth.
About Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of the genre blog Staffer's Book Review (and occasional musings). When he's not writing things of dubious value to the world, he's at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.

You Might Also Like:
The Brandon Sanderson Interview
REVIEW | The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
REVIEW | Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
NEWS | New Sanderson YA Novel

Introducing Our First Guest Reviewer

Mad Hatter's Bookshelf will be entering its fifth year in a few months and in all that time other than a review written with my wife I have been the sole reviewer. For the longest time I've liked it that way despite many offers. I do like to host the occasional guest post on the odd topic from authors and a few others, but later this morning will be the first time another writer has done a review here. It is the last book in a very special series, which is partly how this came about. I wanted to give the book coverage, but didn't feel I was up-to-date enough with the series to do it proper justice.

That's where Justin Landon comes in. Many of you will be familiar with Justin as his blog Staffer's Book Review has been putting out high quality reviews and erudite commentary for almost two years now. He is also co-editing Speculative Fiction 2012: The Years Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary with Jared Shurin coming out later this year. Justin and I have been looking to do something together for awhile now and we do have another idea brewing so hopefully this will just be the first post of others to come.

I hope you enjoy his review, which I'm sure will create discussion and visit his site to see what else he's been up to. This man gets around.

You Might Also Like:
On Retiring One’s Bloody Beloved Characters by Kameron Hurley
GUEST POST | What Does It Mean to Be Compelling? by Robert Jackson Bennett
GUEST POST | Jeff Salyards on Why I Love Bloody Fantasy So Much
Growing Pains: Lessons in Writing the Sequel by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Hattie Awards 2012!!! Or the best books of 2012 (That I've read)

In 2011 I clocked in with 125 books read. This year I just skirted by 100 with 105 books read with many of those graphic novels. Overall, 2011 was a better year of reading for me and I felt the debuts were a bit stronger, granted I didn't get to check out as many debuts this year as in the past as I have been trying to vary my reading even more than in the past. I still have plenty ground to gain in that regard.

Fantasy Novel of the Year

Winner - The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
Runner-up  - The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks
Honorable Mentions - Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams,
The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, 
and The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham

Overall, Fantasy in 2012 wasn't as strong for me as in 2011, but there is still plenty to crow about with some memorable reads. The Troupe is one of those novels that just sticks with you long after closing it. Think of it as a period American Gods through the lens of Steinbeck. Yes, that's heavy praise, but this book deserves it. The Blinding Knife surprised me and then surprised me some more. Abercrombie gave us back many memorable characters from the past with Red Country, a very nice spaghetti western, yet it still isn't as much of a standout as his previous work. I haven't read a Tad Williams book in quite a few years, but I was immediately drawn to The Dirty Streets of Heaven, his first bonafide Urban Fantasy series where he uses his complex story skills to great effect with an Angel detective. Again Abraham is developing some of the smartest Fantasy with his latest Dagger and Coin novel, The King's Blood, but I think the next will cement the series as a favorite as he takes his time building things up.

Top Science Fiction

Winner - Faith by John Love
Runner-up - The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
Honorable Mentions: Redshirts by John Scalzi

It was an interesting year for Sci-Fi, but an early call on Faith still remained the most accomplished Science Fiction I've read this year. Rajaniemi remains one of the most heady writers of the last few years and The Fractal Prince turns things up to 11 in terms of complexity leaving me very eager for the next in the series. I do wonder though if I'll have to draw a line as his writing can get so complex you have hardly any idea exactly what something is supposed to be. As I mentioned in my review of Redshirts, Scalzi hit so many of the right buttons I could not resist enjoying the hell out of it. Definitely a grin worthy read. Many of the books that could have fallen in this category such as those by Kameron Hurley and G. Willow Wilson are elsewhere on this list as they are mixing quite a few things into their cauldrons than something that would typically be called Science Fiction. Had I included them here this list would look very different. Which brings me to the next category.

Top Hybrid - Forging New Ways

Winner - Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Runner-up (tie) - Rapture by Kameron Hurley 
and Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
Honorable Mentions - The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis
and Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

This category which I've referred to as Cross Genre before, is probably my favorite because each of these authors are trying to bring out fictions that haven't been conceived of before. Or at the very least combing seemling disparate genres together in innovative ways. Wilson's Alif the Unseen brought an authenticity rarely seen, especially when combined with magical beings and hacking. Hurley is in the vanguard of those authors bringing new perspectives and entirely new worlds into being. Rapture also finished off a storyline for one of the most badass characters to come along in a decade that should be remembered for decades to come. Harkaway's Angelmarker nearly blew my mind with this Spy Thriller/beepunk fest. Tregillis again is redefining alternative history while Max Gladstone's debut Three Parts Dead created a Legal Magical Thriller. Good stuff all around.

Top Mind Fucks

Winner - The Croning by Laird Barron
Runner-up - The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R.Kiernan
Honorable Mention - John Dies at the End by David Wong

I went with a different title for this category instead of calling these Horror as the flavor of darkness I typically enjoy isn't the bloody sort. Barron's The Croning is also a debut and works the big "DREAD" angle to the utmost in a novel filled with atmosphere. The Drowning Girl is just flat out beautiful and mind bending. Including John Dies at the End is a bit of cheat since it came out a couple years back, but it epitomizes fucking with one's head.

Top Short Takes

Winner - Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck
Runner-up - The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
Honorable Mentions: Stories for Nighttime and Some for The Day by Ben Loory
and After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh

I adored Karin Tidbeck's debut short story collection Jagannath. It is a virtuoso performance of the askew combing Scandinavian folklore with a modern weird sensibility. Theodora Goss's pair of novellas is a beautiful love story mixed with slightly familiar mythology. After the Apocalypse and Stories for Nighttime were both release in 2011, but I only managed to get to them in 2012. Both a very worthwhile collections to seek out. Loory's collection is on the funny side of things while McHugh fixates on the dark.

Mad Hatter's Library Lover Award (i.e. books concerning books)

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Among Others by Jo Walton

I love books about books. Libriomancer pulls the magic out of books while Walton's Among Others makes the experience of reading pure magic.

Top Popcorn - Ohhh, that was fun!

Alexander Outland: Space Pirate by G.J. Koch
Railsea by China Mieville
The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding

If you're just looking for a pure good time these will certainly sate you.

Top Debut Novel

Winner (Tie) - Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
and Faith by John Love
Runner-up (Tie) - Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
and The Croning by Laird Barron
Honorable Mentions: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
and Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

I try and think of this category of who has shown the most potential and Wilson and Love both certain do.That said  I can't wait to see what each of these authors has up their sleeves next.

Series That Keep Turning Out the Hat-tricks

The Woman Who Died A Lot (Thursday Next) by Jasper Fforde 
Cold Days (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher - See short review here.
The Siren Depths (Raksura) by Martha Wells
Devil Said Bang (Sandman Slim) by Richard Kadrey

People always want to know if a long-running series is worth grabbing on to and each of the above is the 3rd or later book each of which are on par or superior to earlier volumes in said series.

Top Reads from Previous Years
Winner - Blindsight by Peter Watts
Forerunner by Andre Norton
The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
Noctuary by Thomas Ligotti

Best Overall Book of the Year - You guys have got to read this!

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

This category is all about which book I loved and think will stand the test of time being talked about more than a decade from now. The other front runners were Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, and Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, but as soon as I finished The Troupe I knew there would be no other book that could beat it this year. I also want to throw an Honorable Mention to The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon since I haven't mentioned it elsewhere even though I had some reservations about it. It still fills-in the world nicely, if a bit lightly compared to the first two books.

You Might Also Like:
The 2011 Hattie Awards!!! Or the Best of 2011 (That I've Read)
Best Books of 2010 (That I've read)
The Mad Hatter's Gift Guide
Best Books of 2009 (That I've read)

Cover Unveiled for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh by Bradley Beaulieu

Art by Aaron J. Riley.
Bradley Beaulieu's series The Lays of Anuskaya perfectly melds Fantasy with skyfaring Russian and Persian influenced cultures amidst a chain of islands. The art above is for the third and final volume in the series The Flames of Shadam Khoreh showing Nasim at age 18. Here's the blurb:
The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins nearly two years after the events of The Straits of Galahesh. In it, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim, which has taken them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. And the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
The Flames of Shadam Khoreh should be out sometime in 2013, but I can't find a firm listing as of yet. Beaulieu is also running a Kickstarter for his first short story collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, which will contain 2 original stories placed in this world. It ends in less than 2 days so get in it while you can.

You Might Also Like:
GUEST POST | Bradley P. Beaulieu on Growing Pains: Lessons in Writing the Sequel
REVIEW | The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu
REVIEW | God's War by Kameron Hurley
REVIEW | Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

REVIEW | Scoundrels (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn

What's this? Me read a Star Wars novel? Well stranger things have certainly happened. The last time I got into a SW story it was The Force Unleashed, which I liked well enough, but the video game was better. Scoundrels though is a decidedly different style though and is part of the movement to diversify the stories told in the SW universe.

Scoundrels is the caper we've all wanted from the SW universe and what should be the type of story that Disney attempts next rather than jumping into Episode 7. They need to do a side story or something only loosely attached to get their feet wet and what better than something that plays off the fun side of the SW Universe?

The story takes place not long after the events of Episode 4, so those memories are fresh for the characters, especially the destruction of Alderaan. Scoundrels is above all things a caper/heists, which is pulled off quite well as Han is put on the trail of over 100 million credits in the hands of the Black Sun, which is basically an intergalactic Mafia outfit used in many of the SW novels. Han, not one to be too greedy, brings in a crew to share the wealth and danger.

There are a few too many characters to keep track of on the team of 11 that Han has assembled, but Zahn has done an admirable job giving each their own distinctive voice and not throwing the balance too much in favor of any. The story is at its best when Lando and Han get into the thick of it. Han in particular spends too much time behind the scenes giving Lando a lot of time to grab attention, but isn't that what Lando is best at? Chewie even through all the warbling is still somehow an endearing character, but it was those I just met such as the ghost burglar, Bink, that I keep hoping would get more page time.

The villains though are much more of a standout than the traditional SW villains showcasing a keen intelligence and understanding of the implications at hand as they try to thwart all comers. With a caper it is all in the planning and finally improvisation to really sell it, which Scoundrels does well.

All in all this is a big step away from the traditional SW novels focused on action with plenty more tension and planning, but there are still plenty of things that go boom. And that ending was a nice twist I didn't see coming.

You Might Also Like:
REVIEW | Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
CLASSIC REVIEW | Homeland by R.A. Salvatore
REVIEW | Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
REVIEW | Redshirts by John Scalzi